Lenovo is showcasing a new expandable-display laptop at MWC 2023 and we’re stoked about it.
The company has been doing pioneering work when it comes to shape-shifting laptops, with products like the decade-old Yoga line and more recently the Lenovo X1 Fold foldable-screen laptop.
Sliding into your field of vision
Lenovo’s latest transformer is a concept that cleverly turns an ordinary-looking laptop into a big-screen productivity-oriented machine.
Lenovo calls it a proof of concept, so there’s no guarantee it will hit the market in its current form. The company told Android Authority it’s been testing prototypes internally for a while now, but this is the first iteration that felt polished enough to be shown to the public.
And “polished” is the right word to describe the Lenovo rollable display laptop. The machine we’ve spent time with looks and feels like a regular laptop, cleverly hiding the expandable display inside its body. The only thing giving it away is the display’s chassis, which is a little thicker than average. The extra space is needed because of the internal, secondary chassis, which is only visible when the screen is extended.
A button on the side controls the screen expansion. Flicking it causes the screen’s outer chassis to slowly slide up on a pair of rails, revealing the secondary chassis hidden inside. This turns the completely normal-looking 12.7-inch 4:3 screen into a taller and more spacious portrait-oriented 15.3-inch screen with 8:9 aspect ratio (like two 16:9 windows stacked on top of one another).
We can see how an expanding screen like this could be a major selling point for users
Lenovo claims that many X1 Fold owners use the foldable screen in portrait orientation, citing writing code, content creation, and general multitasking as use cases that benefit from having a tall screen. With vertically-oriented video content taking off in recent years, we can see how a screen like this could be a major selling point for some users.
Company representatives implied that the display on the rollable concept is very similar to the plastic-based OLED display that ships on the X1 Fold. The screen looked great to us, with deep blacks and ample brightness. The unit we saw was not touch-enabled, but that should change by the time Lenovo turns the concept into a market-ready product.
Funnily enough, Lenovo fitted the laptop with a car-like remote to make it easier to demo the screen inside a glass showcase, but that’s not likely to make it over to the market unfortunately (it’s a neat little party trick, to be honest). The internal mechanism uses a combination of motors, springs, and rails to ensure consistent movements. It’s possible we could see a version of the laptop with a manual slide-out screen rather than a motorized system but we’ll have to wait and see.
By far, the best thing about the Lenovo rollable laptop concept is that it looks and feels like a regular laptop. Other than the display casing, which is a little thicker than usual, the laptop body, keyboard, and hinge look completely normal. That’s not something you can say about folding screen laptops like Lenovo’s X1 Fold or the ASUS ZenBook 17 Fold, which look clunky in comparison.
Then again, foldable laptops are more flexible (pun intended), as you can use them in multiple configurations and orientations. In contrast, Lenovo’s rollable laptop concept can only be used in one orientation, which may still be fine for some users. Of course, the manufacturer could still come up with creative ways to turn the basic laptop format into something more adjustable.
We’ve got no details on the specs and features of the laptop itself, as its only role was to showcase the expandable screen. That said, it will be important for Lenovo to nail the weight distribution and other ergonomic aspects. In our brief time with it, the laptop seemed stable enough even when the screen was fully extended. Stability will naturally be a consideration if Lenovo decides to add touchscreen functionality.
The best thing about the Lenovo rollable laptop concept is that it looks and feels like a regular laptop
We’ll also have to see how Lenovo addresses durability challenges, like what happens if you try to close the laptop with the screen fully open, or if the mechanism somehow goes off while the laptop is carried in a backpack.
The manufacturer implied it still has some work to do in order to perfect the precise mechanism needed to make the display move smoothly and reliably. On the software side, Windows 11 can already handle the transition between different form factors pretty gracefully, so that shouldn’t be a problem.
The best of two worlds?
All this said, Lenovo’s rollable laptop concept looks grounded in reality already. If the company decided to bring it to market tomorrow, it could pass off as a real, if nondescript-looking product. And that’s the cool thing about it – it gives you the expandable display you get with something like the X1 Fold, without sacrificing portability or usability.
Lenovo didn’t tell us what price a laptop based on the concept would sell for. But considering its flexible display is about the same size as the $2,500 Lenovo X1 Fold, we can reasonably expect it to be in the same ballpark. Just like foldable smartphones, laptops with folding or rollable displays command a premium.
On a related note, Lenovo’s Motorola brand is showcasing its own take on the expandable screen idea at MWC 2023. The Motorola “Rizr” goes from a squat 5-inch screen to a 6.5-inch one within a couple of seconds, offering both portability and a big screen in the same package. It’s just a concept for now as well, though we wouldn’t be surprised to see a version of it hit the market in the future.
Lenovo has demonstrated both the capacity and the will to innovate when it comes to form factors, and more importantly when it comes to shipping products. Not every idea is a winner, but our early impressions of its rollable laptop concept are very positive.